Hiring managers may balk at the idea of using a recruiting firm, but in highly specialized industries like pharmaceuticals and medical devices, working with a specialty recruiting firm can be the best possible approach to filling open employment positions.

For example, a third-party recruiter is able to step in when a company is coping with any of the following difficulties:

- A lack of time to properly recruit for open positions.

- A lack of results from internal recruiting efforts.

- High turnover rates and a desire to address the situation.

- A lack of responses from candidate outreach efforts.

- Insufficient in-house HR resources.

Before hiring a recruiting firm – particularly in a highly specialized field like biotech – a company should become familiar with how recruiting firms are paid.

Understanding Fee Structures Used by Recruiting Firms

The fees you pay to a skilled recruiter are more than offset by the advantages such a recruiter brings – advantages like lower employee turnover and fewer outright hiring mistakes. Retainers and contingency arrangements are two of the most prominent fee structures recruiters use.

With the retainer structure, your company pays a fee up front and typically gives the recruiter exclusive access to the employment listing. Yes, paying up front presents a certain level of risk, but the fee is also likely to motivate the recruiter to prioritize your work. Moreover, retained specialty recruiters often have industry expertise and insights that many contingency-based recruiters can’t offer. References are essential before hiring a recruiter based on a retainer, as are preliminary conversations with the specific recruiters working on your behalf.

Contingency fee structures are performance-based: You don’t pay until the recruiter successfully recruits an employee for you. Usually, the fee is a percentage of the employee’s first-year compensation. While it may seem better to only pay when a recruiter actually delivers, there are downsides to contingency fee structures. A contingency recruiter may or may not prioritize your needs, and you may have to continually remind your recruiter of your needs.

The Entire Hiring Process Is an Investment

Investment Whether you use in-house resources for hiring or you work with a speciality third-party recruiter, you have to look at the hiring process as an investment. Naturally, you want that investment to deliver the highest return possible, and this alone can be reason to work with a specialty recruiter. An outstanding recruiter is as concerned with your return on your hiring investment as you are.

An HR professional or hiring manager, however expert at HR matters, simply may not have the insight into the industry that a recruiter specializing in that industry will have. It’s similar to deciding between DIY-ing your new kitchen floor and hiring a flooring contractor: Either way, you’ll probably end up with a kitchen floor. The question is, which choice will return the best kitchen floor for your time and money.

Deep Industry Experience and Involvement Are Essential

Recruiters with deep industry insight, particularly with competitive, specialized industries like biotech, are far more equipped to find not only a candidate, but the candidate.

Often, the best candidates are passive: happily employed, but open to new opportunities. A specialty recruiter is able not only to find these passive candidates, thanks to their extensive industry networks, but also to make a compelling case for why the opportunity your company offers is worth their consideration. You’ll find there is no substitute for specific industry experience when you hire a recruiting firm for a specialized position.

In Recruiting, Quality Trumps Quantity

Any recruiter can send you a stack of resumes, but that’s not what you should be paying for. With recruiting in technical industries, the quality of candidates is more important than the quantity. You’ll waste less time on unqualified or non-ideal candidates, and with the right recruiter, you’ll be confident the candidates you’re presented with are ones the recruiter is willing to stake their reputation on.

The specialist recruiter can be an HR manager’s greatest ally in locating and hiring the highest quality personnel. With a constant ear to the ground and up-to-date industry knowledge, such a recruiter is able to make the case on your behalf to qualified people. Speciality recruiters are often in better positions to discuss desired salaries and compensation packages, too. The result: thoroughly vetted, qualified candidates delivered to you and ready to talk seriously about becoming part of your team.

A version of this article originally appeared at

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